February 27, 2006: Rustbelt Radio
Welcome to this week's edition of Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of the news from the grassroots, news overlooked by the corporate media. The show airs live every Monday from 6-7pm on WRCT 88.3FM in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, every Thursday from 11am to noon on WARC-Meadville from the campus of Allegheny College, and every Saturday from 5-6pm on WVJW Benwood, 94.1 FM in the Wheeling, West Virginia area. And we're now on WPTS 92.1FM from the campus of the University of Pittsburgh, also Saturdays at 5pm.
We're also available on the internet, both on WRCT's live webstream at W-R-C-T dot ORG and for download, stream or podcast at radio dot I-N-D-Y-P-G-H dot org.
On today's show...
- We speak with Big Idea volunteers about Pittsburgh's radical book store
- we hear from Chris Carlsson, the co-founder of the critical mass bicycle ride about critical mass, bicycling, and community.
- but first, local news on Senator Santorum, Upper St. Clair schools, Pennsylvania voting laws, and global news on communcations law, the mexico mine disaster, gold mining in chile, and Shell in Nigeria.
[2:30] Upper St. Clair Board votes to terminate IB program
Last week, the school board of Upper St. Clair voted five-to-four to terminate the districts International Baccalaureate program. The vote occurred amidst objections by students and parents. The superintendent had recommended further time to evaluate the program.
The International Baccalaureate organization, founded in 1968, developed a rigorous and intensive academic program which takes an international perspective. According to their mission statement, the program (quote) "encourages students to be active learners, well-rounded individuals and engaged world citizens." There are currently IB programs in almost 2,000 schools in 122 countries. In upper St. Clair, the program supplements the normal curriculum and participation is voluntary.
Newly elected school board members asked the administration to review the program. These members questioned the program's political agenda and claimed it does not emphasize facts. They claim it is marxist, anti-Christian, un-american, and too costly.
Mark Trombetta, a board member who voted to terminate the program, said [quote] We have a fine museum right here in Pittsburgh. We don't have to be teaching our kids about all the commie displays at that French museum named after the soap, the Lever. [unquote]
In 2004, Trombetta lobbied to rename a middle school after Ronald Reagan. A committee of board members is considering renaming the high school auditorium after Reagan.
Parents are in discussions with the ACLU about filing a lawsuit to reverse the decision.
Shani Banerjeeis, a graduate of the Upper St Clair IB program, attended the school board meeting last week where the vote took place. Shani said the auditorium, which has 1,000 seats, was filled beyond capacity. We asked Shani if anyone of the 1000-plus crowd in attendance was in favor of ending the IB program.
[1:40] Santorum Mess
Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum is in hot water again over his controversial housing decisions. A little over a year ago, Penn Hills residents took objection to the Santorum family’s consumption of a 67,000 dollar distance learning program to home-school their children at the Penn Hills tax payers' expense. At the time, Santorum justified this behavior because he owns a small house in the Penn Hills area, which he claimed was his primary residence. However, the so-called primary residence is a small $100,000 unit, and Santorum lives year-round in a $750,000 house in Virginia, which he is apparently considering his secondary residence. Shortly after the Penn Hills school district began investigating the incident, the Santorum children were withdrawn from the Penn Hills cyber-education program.
But now there is trouble for Santorum about the other house. Investigative reporter Will Bunch revealed that Santorum received the mortgage for his Virginia residence from a small, private Philadelphia bank which normally accepts only investors with at least a quarter million dollars in liquid assets, a level of wealth that Santorum could not have had according to the financial disclosure forms he filed. The private bank is run by a major conservative campaign donor, and some suspect that by receiving the mortgage, Santorum engaged in improper fund raising. Melanie Sloan, a former federal prosecutor who heads Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said that [quote] “anytime he gets something that a regular person couldn't get, that's an improper gift.”
Santorum will make an appearance in Pittsburgh this Friday, March 3, for a press conference about the development of promising regenerative medicine technologies for treating combat injuries. The press conference will be held at 2 PM at the Bridgeside Point Building, 100 Technology Dr, in South Oakland.
[2:00] Rendell vetoes voter ID bill
On Monday February 20, Governor Rendell held a press conference at the Hill House in the Hill District of Pittsburgh to announce he would veto house bill 1318. The bill would have placed new restrictions on voting in Pennsylvania, including the requirement that all voters show ID at the polls.
Rendell also said he objected to the bill because it was designed to counter voter fraud, but there is no evidence that such fraud is occurring. The press conference was attended by a spirited and jubilant crowd of many of those who had rallied to oppose the bill, including the Black Political Empowerment Project, ACORN, AARP, Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network, the League of Women Voters, VotePA, representatives of the armed forces, State Senator Jim Ferlo, and Pittsburgh mayor Bob O’Connor.
The group PA Votes also advocated at the event for Senate Bill 977, which would require paper validation of all votes cast in Pennsylvania if electronic voting machines are installed. We’ll have more next week on their concerns with electronic voting and about lawsuits filed locally challenging plans for new electronic systems.
For more on local news, you can visit pittsburgh dot I-N-D-Y-M-E-D-I-A dot org.
[ HMB BREAK RUSTBELT - 0:20 ]
You are listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news overlooked by the corporate media. We turn now to news from other independent media sources around the world.
[1:15] WINN Act
Republican and Democratic Senators are sponsoring the Wireless Innovation, or WINN, Act. This bill would require the Federal Communication Commission, or FCC, to release unused TV broadcast airwaves, or whitespace. This would allow these unused waves to be used for wireless computer networking.
A similar bill, the American Broadband for Communities Act, was also recently introduced in the Senate.
Consumer advocates hope that such legislation will lower high speed internet prices and thus make the internet more accessible. They claim that opening this part of the spectrum is important for expanding wireless internet service to rural areas. They also claim the bill will allow more competition in the broadband market, and eventually lessen the digital divide.
The National Association of Broadcasters spoke against the legislation to the FCC, claiming such legislation would interfere with TV broadcasting.
Independently of this legislation, many areas are working to establish municipal wireless systems. Telecommunications companies are opposed to such moves. Rustbelt radio has previously reported that after Philadelphia's mayor announced plans to provide city-wide wireless service, Pennsylvania passed a law prohibiting other parts of the state from building a wireless network without Verizon's permission.
[0:30] Force feeding stopped
In Israel, the production of foie gras was outlawed in 2003, when a court order prohibited the use of tubes to force feed geese under animal cruelty laws. Now the Israeli High Court has ordered the state to enforce the prohibition on inhumane fattening tricks, which continue on 24 farms which still produce fois gras for luxury restaurants. The high court also refused an appeal by the farms who hope to allow force feeding until [quote] "a more humane alternative to the feeding of geese for foie gras was found".
[2:30] Mexico mine disaster
On Monday February 19th, a gas explosion inside a mine in Northern Mexico trapped 65 miners over a mile inside the mine’s tunnels. After six days of rescue attempts, the corporate owner of the mine, Grupo Mexico, now says there is no hope of finding the missing miners alive. The explosion raised tempertures in the mine to 1,100 degrees, which consumed almost all the oxygen in the mine and released toxic methane and carbon monoxide gases. Twelve miners working near the entrance were rescued just after the explosion and treated for burns and broken bones.
Although many of the 600 people who had camped outside the mine entrance during the rescue attempt have now gone home, Aranely Saucedo and about 15 other relatives of those buried within the mine vowed to send family members to camp outside its entrance in shifts for weeks. They said they are afraid that if they don't keep a close watch, company officials will simply declare their loved ones lost for good. At this time Grupo Mexico says they do not know how long it will take to retrieve the bodies.
Government officials have promised a full investigation to determine the cause of the explosion.
There are indications the tragedy could have been averted through better safety precautions. Many Mexican mine workers are hired through labor contractors and are poorly trained. Of the 65 trapped miners, 31 were nonunion. Workers earn about 60 dollars a week.
The Pasta de los Conchos mine is considered one of the most technically advanced in Mexico. It began operations in 1984 and up until today had reported no major accidents. Government records show that it was last inspected on February 3. At the time inspectors found 43 reportedly minor safety violations, and indicated that management had fixed the problems.
An account of the inspection, issued on February 7, reported high levels of methane coupled with only occasional monitoring by company personnel. Government officials have not explained why the mine was not shut down at that time.
Workers say that they repeatedly told management of safety problems and they were ignored. Former miner Zacarias Cruz said: (quote) “I would tell them all the time that this mine is unsafe, but our need for work forced us to enter the mine. I worked for five years at this mine and there was always too much gas; this mine was a time bomb.”
Miner Salvador Estrada, who was off-duty at the time of the explosion, said workers complained to engineers of a gas smell underground last week but were told to get back to work.
Grupo Mexico said Sunday the survivors will receive 9,500 dollars in compensation, while relatives of those killed will get 75,000 dollars.
The federal government has also promised to give each family that lost a miner a house and scholarships so that their children can go to college.
[3:00] open pit gold mine in Andes approved by Chile
On February 15, a regional environmental agency in Chile approved plans by Barrick gold corporation to create an open-pit mine high upon the spine of the Andes Mountains. The company’s plan to relocate three glaciers at the Pascua Lama site had sparked an international outcry, and the government approval contained the condition that the glaciers remain untouched. The Regional Environment Commission also demanded that the company do its utmost to protect the flora and fauna in the region of Atacama, and that it adequately treat all waste. The company hasn't explained how it will reach the gold without disturbing the glaciers, but praised the decision nonetheless.
Oceana, Greenpeace and Chilean environmental groups have raised an outcry over the proposed open pit mine, and Barrick has countered with a multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign seeking Chile's approval of the project. Antonia Fortt, an environmental engineer with the ecological organization Oceana, said (quote) “The mine will cause severe damages to the local ecosystem because it will pollute the Huasco River as well as underground water sources." She also said the chemicals used in the mine, which include large amounts of cyanide and mercury, will pollute the Huasco Valley below.
César López of the Committee for the Defence of the Huasco Valley said that the decision was no guarantee that the glaciers would be preserved, since they have already deteriorated as a result of road-building and other activities by Barrick Gold underway in the area for the past few months.
Environmentalists plan appeals to Chile's council of ministers and ultimately to president-elect Michelle Bachelet, who takes office on March 11. They hope for a sympathetic hearing from Chile's first woman president, who has promised to create a ministry of the environment. Barrick must still get approval from the Argentine government. There has been less opposition to the project in Argentina than in Chile.
[1:00] US Defense news
The New York Times reported today that the Army will reimburse a Halliburton subsidiary for nearly all of its disputed costs on a $2.4 billion no-bid contract to deliver fuel and repair oil equipment in Iraq. Auditors had recommended the Army withhold $263 million from Kellogg Brown and Root, but the Army decided to withhold just $10 million. California Congressman Henry Waxman said "Halliburton gouged the taxpayer, government auditors caught the company red-handed, yet the Pentagon ignored the auditors and paid Halliburton hundreds of millions of dollars and a huge bonus."
In other defense news, a defense contractor admitted on Friday that he paid former Republican Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California more than one million dollars in bribes. Michael Wade, the former president of the defense contractor MZM, also admitted to making a total of $80,000 in illegal donations to other members of Congress. Press accounts have identified the two as Republicans, Katherine Harris of Florida and Virgil Goode of Virginia. Wade faces up to 20 years in prison.
[from Feb 27, 2006 DemocracyNow.org]
[3:00] bad week for Shell in Nigeria
On Thursday February 23rd, A Nigerian court ordered Royal Dutch Shell to pay 1.5 billion dollars in damages to Ijaw communities in Nigeria for polluting the Niger delta. The ruling was handed down from a federal high court in Port Harcourt, a city in the heart of Nigeria’s oil producing region. It is a fresh blow to the company, which was already reeling from a kidnap crisis and a wave of sabotage against its installations. Although Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil exporter, at 2.5 billion barrels a day, and the United States’ fifth-largest source of oil imports, communities in the oil-producing Niger delta region remain impoverished. Royal Dutch Shell is the operator of a joint venture that produces almost half the country’s oil output: the joint venture also includes France’s Total SA, Italy’s E-N-I S-P-A, and the Nigerian government.
The court ruling orders Shell to compensate communities in state of Bayelsa for degrading their creeks, spoiling crops, and poisoning fish. The decision was a major victory for the Ijaw people - who have repeatedly accused Shell of environmental damage and campaigned for compensation for more than a decade - and one of Shell's worst legal setbacks.
A statement from Shell in London said (quote) “we believe that we will have strong grounds to appeal as independent expert advice demonstrates that there is no evidence to support the claims.” The statement added that Shell remained committed to dialogue with the Ijaw people - a claim rejected by Ijaw leaders. Chief Malla Sasime (sa-see-meh), the ruler of the Ijaw Epie kingdom in Bayelsa, said: (quote) "Our people have gone through due process to get the judgment. They must pay the money or be ready to leave our land." Another Ijaw leader, Ngo Nac-Eteli (ngo knock ay-tel-ee), said Shell would be prevented from operating on Ijaw territory if it tried to buy time by appealing against the judgment.
On the same day, news emerged regarding the nine employees of a US subcontractor to Shell who were kidnapped February 18th by Nigerians disenchanted with Shell’s activities in their region. The kidnappers of the nine - a Briton, three Americans, two Egyptians, two Thais and a Filipino - are demanding that people in the country's south receive a greater share of the region's oil wealth. They also want the Nigerian government to release of the delta's two most prominent Ijaw leaders, Mujahid Dokubo-Asari and former Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha (dee-eh-pree-eh a-la-mee-yeh-say-gah). The kidnappers have released pictures of the hostages, and brought one of the Americans along the Niger delta by boat to speak to journalists. The American identified himself as Macon Hawkins, from Texas, and said: (quote) "We're being treated quite well. Just let's hope it ends well."
In the last week resistence fighters have also blown up pipelines and sabotaged a Royal Dutch Shell oil loading platform, forcing the company to shut off the flow of several hundred thousand barrels of oil.
Resistence groups in the Niger delta have fought the Nigerian government and the oil industry for 15 years, demanding a greater share of oil revenues and compensation for environmental damage. In 1995 the writer and campaigner Ken Saro-Wiwa was executed after leading a peaceful uprising of the Ogoni people in opposition to Shell.
You can read more independent global news stories by visting indymedia: I-N-D-Y-M-E-D-I-A dot O-R-G.
[ Fela Kuti - Musical Break ]
Bad Cop No Donut
On this week's edition of Bad Cop No Donut, Ron Anicich has news of police abuse from Northeastern Pennsylvania, Morgantown West Virginia, and central Ohio.
Welcome back to Rust Belt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.
[21:00] Big Idea
The Big Idea is Pittsburgh's own radical, not-for- profit, volunteer-run bookstore. According to their mission statement, they “strive to provide literature that is multi-cultural, womyn-positive, queer-positive, class-conscious, anti-militaristic, and that promotes a sustainable world and community”. The Big Idea just celebrated the two year anniversary of their store-front location in Bloomfield. Rustbelt Radio spoke to several volunteers and coordinators of the bookstore to provide some insight into the history of the Big Idea, their goals, and their hopes for the future of the project. We will first hear from Emma, and later, Kenyon, Nathan, and Jeremy.
You can also reach the Big Idea by calling 412-687-4323, or 412- OUR HEAD.
You're listening to Rust Belt Radio.
[6:45] Chris Carlsson
Chris Carlsson is a writer and editor who is best known for co-founding Critical Mass in San Francisco in 1992. Since then the monthly bike ride has spread around the world, including Pittsburgh. Jon Winston spoke to Chris earlier this year about critical mass, bicycling, and community.
That's an excerpt from a conversation with Chris Carlsson, co-founder of the monthly Critical Mass bicycle ride in San Francisco. You can hear the full interview by Jon Winston on the internet at bikescape (dot) blogspot (dot) com.
[m:ss] Calendar of events
And now we present the Indymedia calendar of events:
- Tomorrow, at the Thomas Merton Center, the Snails Pace Collective will be presenting a talk entitled "Another Kind of Politics: Community Power, Autonomy, Zapatismo, and the US" This discussion will take place at 6:00 pm; the Merton Center is located at 5125 Penn Avenue in Garfield.
- Friday March 3rd, there will be a benefit show for the Big Idea Bookstore. This show will be held at the Roboto Project in Wilkinsburg, located at 722 Wood St. Beginning at 7pm, the show will feature The Sea Like Lead, F'd up mess, and Flotilla Way. All proceeds will go to the Big Idea, and books will also be available for purchase at the show.
- Next Monday, March 5th The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank will hold it 11th Annual Empty Bowls Dinner. This simple meal of bread and soup will benefit the Food Bank and Just Harvest, and raise awareness about the problem of hunger in our community. This event will take place from 3 to 7 pm and will be held at the Rodef Shalom Congregation, 4905 5th Avenue in Oakland. For more information contact 412-431-8960 or www.pittsburghfoodbank. org
- And on Wednesday, March 8th, there will be a rally for International Women's Day at noon in front of the Federal Building in downtown Pittsburgh. For more information contact Edith at 412-371-9722.
[ Outro music ]
Thanks for tuning in to Rust Belt Radio here on WRCT Pittsburgh, WARC Meadville, WVJW Benwood and WPTS Pittsburgh.
Our hosts this week are Abie Flaxman and Carlin Christy with contributions from Jessica McPherson, Jessi Berkelhammer, Matt Toups, Abie Flaxman and Carlin Joy. This week's show was produced by Matt Toups. Special thanks to all of our hosts, producers, and contributors.
You can get involved with Rustbelt Radio! To contact us, or to send us your comments, email RADIO at I-N-D-Y-P-G-H dot ORG. All of our shows are available for download or podcast on our website at RADIO dot INDY-P-G-H dot ORG and this show can be heard again Tuesday morning on WRCT at 9 AM after Democracy Now!
Tune in next week at this time for another edition of Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.
Rustbelt Radio for February 27, 2006 (ogg vorbis)
by Indymedia Rustbelt Radio collective
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